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Monday, February 15, 2021

Cover Spotlight Q&A: Shards Of Earth (The Final Architects #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (by Mihir Wanchoo)


(Author picture courtesy of Pan Macmillan)

Official Author Website

Pre-order Shards Of Earth over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

Adrian Tchaikovsky is an author who has never tread the easy path when it comes to fantasy or SF stories. Beginning with his debut saga, The Shadows Of The Apt and with the recent slew of fantasy standalones as well SF stories of varied lengths, topics and value. He has been a highlight for us at Fantasy Book Critic. Both Liviu and Lukasz sing his praises to the high heavens and I am a follower of Tchaikovsky’s wonderous prose.

So when his most recent SF trilogy was announced, I was beyond excited to see what it entailed. Mixing super soldiers (of a sort), aliens of the uber-sentient kind and humanity spread among the stars, this new trilogy promises to be a wild one and yet will have Adrian’s signature touches of superb characterization, an incredible story and plot twists that are hard to predict.

Adrian was kind enough to talk to us today with regards to the Final Architects trilogy, the universe within and what he’s been upto.

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Adrian and thank you for your time. How have things been with you in 2020?

AT: Oh, you know, screaming into the cosmic void, same as everyone.

Q] Let’s talk about the stunning cover for the Shards Of Earth. Please tell us about if you had any input for it?

AT: It’s drawn, in part, from one of the first major reveals in the book, which I thought when writing it would be on the cover. I did contribute to a little tweaking of emphasis, but overall the artist/designer (Steve Stone) nailed 90% of the right feel on the first pass.

Q] What was your first reaction when you saw it? How does it hold up (in your opinion) to what the main story is about?

AT: The story is about a lot of things, but the Architects, and what they do to planets (and did to Earth – yes, that’s Earth) is the shadow that looms over everything else. It was either an Architect on the cover, or the aftermath of one, and the full Architect reveal (even in retrospect, in character memory) is buried deep in the book. It really was the only cover scene the book was ever going to have.

Q] How did the inception of The Final Architects trilogy occur? What were some of the inspirations for you during its writing?

AT: On a purely personal level I wanted to write something that departed from the hard science lines I’ve tried to stick to in a lot of my earlier work. Mostly this came out of Children of Ruin where a big part of the book’s pacing is dictated by how quickly the ships can cross space even within a solar system. I wanted to play with  FTL travel but – being me – this both became somewhat nonstandard, and then became integral to the concepts of the book. So I have unspace, which is your hyperspace sort of layer that allows fast travel between stars, but unspace is not just a sterile glittery void.

Things live in it. Things that rise up and take notice and murder entire planets by reworking them into hideous art. And then stop, for reasons as inscrutable as their reasons for starting. Basically I decided I should have a nice jolly SF where people could go faster than light and it turns out this opens the door to world-wrecking horrors. You know, swings and roundabouts…

Q] You have mentioned that “It’s also a story about trauma and stress. The whole scattered human race is suffering a kind of cultural PTSD for the loss of Earth.” That’s a very interesting take and what lead you down this route? Exploring PTSD from a cultural and planetary perspective?

AT: So at the start of the book the war with the Architect’s been done for a generation and a bit. Humanity’s refugee populace has begin to settle and get out from under the shadow of extinction. But everything we see about how people live, from how they eat to what they keep with them and what skills they value, to their funeral customs, it’s all informed by the protracted period of time when a moon-sized creature could appear in the sky at any time, and you always had a go-bag and knew the quickest route to the spaceport. And knew even that wouldn’t be enough. So everywhere you go in the book, there are the scars of the war, in the people and everything around them.

Q] Can you tell us more about the universe that The Final Architects trilogy is set in and some of the story’s major characters? What are the curiosities of this universe?

AT: The lead role in the book (by a narrow margin as it’s an ensemble) is Idris. He’s an Intermediary, which means that during the war they screwed with his brain until he could be used as a telepathic weapon against the Architects. And also means he’s an unmatched unspace navigator. And that he hasn’t actually slept or aged since the war, because that’s all part of the particular way Idris got screwed up by the Intermediary process. Idris just wants to keep out of the limelight but he’s one of the few original Ints left and a lot of people could find a use for him. Instead of which he’s slumming it on a deep space salvage ship with his business partner, a lawyer. So Idris is simultaneously the lead and also a curiosity of the universe because of his peculiar leftover competencies and skills. He also wants nothing to do with war or Architects again and in that he’s going to be disappointed.

Q] So what can readers expect from Shards Of Earth and what should they be looking forward to according to you?

AT: I’ve embraced the traditional space trope of a ship full of dysfunctional but generally fun misfits. In this case they’re salvagers and their ship is the delightfully-named Vulture God. They’re operating at the fringes of a brittle human culture that’s losing worlds to aliens, and losing internal cohesion to increasingly strident factions. Outside there are a handful of spacefaring alien races, ranging from the cheerfully mercantile Hannilambra all the way up to the Hegemony, a vastly powerful multispecies Empire that would very much like human worlds to join it and worship its alien overlords. Or at least that’s what people think they want because those overlords are very alien and it’s hard to actually understand what they mean about anything.

There’s also unspace, which is bad enough for your mental health that everyone who can goes into suspension rather than face it (and Idris, poor bastard, can’t, if he wants to do his job). And then there are the mysterious, absent Architects, whom everyone says are gone forever, and whose return everyone is dreading.

Q] You are a prolific writer and I’m sure the readers will want to know what will be the timeline for the publication of the remaining two sequels?

AT: Out of my hands, but the second is written already and I’d imagine it’ll be one per year.

Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

AT: I never know what to say for this slot to be honest. I hope they like the book? I hope they’re holding things together under the current trying circumstances.


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